After years of dormancy, the Civic is back and better than ever. It is the standout choice in the compact segment.  And Honda’s hatched a product portfolio around it that includes something for everyone with graduated flavors of sport that take the Civic all the way to Type R.

The accolades keep rolling in for the new Civic and if you’ve driven one for yourself you understand why. It’s one of the most popular vehicles in America and has supplanted the Accord as Honda’s best-selling car.  So the variations keep rolling out and the latest is this 2017 Hatchback. More audacious, additionally versatile and a tad spicier under the skin, this new bodystyle also comes in a flavor the sedan doesn’t: Sport.  Stylized with an aero kit, fog lights, dual-outlet center exhaust and 18” wheels, this lower-end Hatch trim is big on personality and low on price.  $22,175 gets you this exact car and let me tell you; it’s one heck of a drive.  And the drive is what you must appreciate here because there’s little else to entice you to the Sport.  Note, there is a top-of-the-line Sport Touring trim but, and it’s a big but, you miss out on this sweet-shifting 6-speed manual.  Yes, the CVT is an option but it costs an extra $800, is less economical believe it or not, and can’t match the fun afforded by this wonderfully engineered stick shift with its determined, precise motions accompanied by a solid click into gear and easy to modulate clutch pedal.  And it’s working this eager 1.5-liter 4-cylinder with direct-injection, variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust camshafts and a mono scroll turbo that’s been designed for a combination of immediacy and refinement.  Here in the sport, it uses premium unleaded to extract the greatest performance, bumping horsepower from 174 to 180 and more tangibly torque from 162 pound-feet to 177.  You can squeal the front tires through the first couple of gears on the way to 60mph in the mid 7s.  But it feels about a second quicker from behind the wheel.  But the piece de resistance with the Civic is the chassis – it’s what makes it so much fun to drive.  The Hatchback gets a specially tuned version with an uprated front stabilizer bar producing impressive turn-in and flatter cornering.  Plus, these ContiProContact all-seasons do a wonderful job of mitigating understeer and providing exceptional grip.  With the benefit of Agile Handling Assist which brakes the inside wheels during high speed cornering, the Hatch brilliantly hides its front-drive underpinnings.  You will feel the road here but it’s never punishing.

When I first drove the sedan over a year ago, it was evident that this stellar new platform was just the beginning of great things for Civic. Despite it only having a CVT at the time, it was still an immediate all-star.  And now, in the more expressive Hatch Sport form with an addictively good 6-speed and a little more power, this car continues to exceed expectations.  It’s the most fun behind the wheel $22k can buy.  You will love driving this, whether to work or for play.  Just one thing; if you like stuff, this Sport trim will leave you wanting.

The price is low but so is content. Honda’s parting with nothing here, keeping all the good stuff for higher trims and that’s too bad.  No smart key, no sat radio, no power seats, no side blind zone alert.  Plus, this is the worst sounding head unit I’ve heard since the early 2000s.  It looks and feels of quality, the seats are comfy and sport appropriate, forward visibility is video game good, it’s relatively quiet and rear passengers enjoy plenty of space.  But this isn’t the kind of car that’s going to impress your ride along friends.  Unless you’re helping them move stuff that is, where the Hatch provides over an additional 7 cubic feet of cargo volume in Sport trim.  Non Sport models gain even more.  Fold the seats flat for even more…enough to hold a bike.  And then there’s this reversible tonneau cover which doesn’t have to be removed to stay out of the way.

Yes, the Si and Type-R are on their way but the Hatchback Sport provides intermediate raciness that’s perfectly placed in the growing Civic stable.

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